Title: Trail of Bones
Author: Chris Salisbury
Genre: Middle-Grade, YA, Fantasy
Rating: 2 Stars (Adult), 4 Stars (MG / YA)
Description/Synopsis: Magnus, the runt of a litter of Shade Wolves, wants nothing more than to be a loyal, strong member of the pack. But when an ancient enemy threatens his friends and family, he faces a choice that could tear him from all he's known and loved.
Born in captivity, the giant panther Kelor knows nothing but suffering and loss. He struggles to find his place in this world of terror, and he battles to protect his family without succumbing to the darkness lurking inside him.
Falling captive to the evil Warden, the two are forced to fight in the battle of the beasts known as 'The Trail of Bones'. How will Kelor and Magnus learn to work together? How will they escape a fate of despair and death? How will their choices affect their comrades? Their enemies? And the forgotten magic that could doom all life of their world?
Let the adventures begin!
WARNING - SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT - REVIEW BELOW
I think from a child's point of view, this is a really great book. It's full of conflict, magic, great beasts, and interesting characters. The narrative is full of colorful description, and the dialogue is dramatic and funny.
From an adult's point of view, not so much. As an avid reader of YA fiction, I'd probably place this book in the middle-grade genre. It's really intended for a younger audience. I think most teens could probably get through it without too much hassle, but as the audience's age get's older, it's a little harder to get through. As an adult, I found the narrative poorly written. From a technical standpoint, there was a lot of passive sentences, needless piles of description that really didn't add to the scene (every single page had a moment where the narrative stopped, dumped a bunch of description, and then continued on with the story) and a whole lot of telling vs showing.
The dialogue was awkward, unrealistic at best, and fraught with drama. For a younger audience, that's great. They expect the dramatic speeches, but as an adult, I found it almost comical and started to shake my head every time a character spoke. Not only that, but the thoughts that swam through character's heads sometimes made me sit back and stare at the page in awkward confusion. They were monologue's of ideas that should have been written into the narrative, but instead, were put into a character's voice.
Also, the point of view seemed to jump around quite a bit. It was written in 3rd person, but there didn't seem to be any breaks between where the narrative jumped from one character to another - and no indication that it was going to happen until suddenly you were reading about a different character. At other points, the narrator became omniscient and began to meta-narrate, or tell the audience things that the characters wouldn't know at that point in the story, before jumping back into a character's POV. It was jarring and made it very difficult to follow along.
There were so many instances were it seemed dramatic narration and dialogue were forced into the story, and then on the other side of the coin, places where tension and drama should have been cultivated were completely left by the wayside. The unfortunate side effect, was that the writing came across as juvenile. As an adult, in the end I couldn't like the book. As a parent though, I would have gladly given the story to the children in my family. I honestly think they would have greatly enjoyed it.
I would recommend this book for younger audiences with a warning that there is cruelty, battles, and blood involved. YA and adult readers may like it if they enjoy fantasy that doesn't take itself too seriously, but for those serious literary readers who tend to prefer the epic fantasy genre and gravitate more towards writers like J. R. R. Tolkien or George R.R. Martin, this probably isn't for you.